by Josh Nelson
In February I wrote about Obama’s strong stands on media issues. Obama is now bringing more tough talk, with promises to directly go after excessive media consolidation that is not properly serving consumers.
Democrat Barack Obama said on Sunday he would pursue a vigorous antitrust policy if he becomes U.S. president and singled out the media industry as one area where government regulators would need to be watchful as consolidation increases.
“There are going to be areas, in the media for example where we’re seeing more and more consolidation, that I think (it) is legitimate to ask…is the consumer being served?”
The fact that companies are scrambling to complete mergers before a possible Obama administration gives an indication of just how serious they believe him to be.
“People are working quickly to get things done during this administration. They have for some time,” Axinn said.
Leiv Blad, an antitrust lawyer with Clifford Chance, agreed. “It’s generally understood that if Obama wins, that the enforcement priorities of the DOJ would change,” he said.
One part of this Reuters story is pretty misleading though.
Steve Axinn, of Axinn, Veltrop and Harkrider LLP, said firms were wrapping up deals in the belief that any of the candidates — Republican Sen. John McCain, Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton or Obama — would oversee tougher merger reviews than the Bush team has.
The fact is, McCain has a miserable record on media consolidation. In case Mr. Axinn somehow didn’t catch the lobbyist sex scandal, Vicky Iseman was using McCain to grease the wheels for media consolidation. Dana Blankenhorn gets it exactly right.
McCain greased all these moves. He let Paxson slide time-after-time, as he let AT&T slide, as he let Clear Channel slide, as he let Comcast slide. He did nothing to spur new competition in telecommunications, nothing to assure competition in the broadcasting business.
John McCain is the greatest friend monopolists have ever had. He pretends to stand against them, but he enables their every move. He has been doing this for over a decade now, and all the media let him get away with it. In fact, they’re still letting him get away with it.
Anyone who says John McCain will be more aggressive in preventing media consolidation than George Bush has been is either a fool or a liar, maybe both.